SNAPSHOT: Kampong Glam
by Amanda Harrison
published by Amanda Harrison
Once a section of coastline, this area was the home of sea gypsies ('orang' laut) whose use of the 'gelam' tree for their boats and medicine reputedly gave it its name.
In 1924 the British handed the land to the Sultan of Johor who built his Istana and the Sultan Mosque. The Mosque is truly representative of the whole Muslim community - its construction funded by the rich while the poor contributed used glass bottles to be incorporated into the decoration.
Until the 70s Singapore was the rallying point of the region's muslims bound for Mecca; they gathered for the Kapal Haj or Pilgrim Ship to Jeddah. The Javanese mispronunciation of 'haji' (pilgrim) resulted in the area around Bussorah Street becoming known as Kampong Kaji.
There may be now no trace of sea but in the shadow of the golden dome of the Sultan Mosque a harbour bustle still survives in the lively commercial activity that fills the network of streets; no longer the old trades of tombstone-making, blacksmithing or the publication of Islamic literature, but an invigorating mix of the traditional and the new, drawing in tourists and locals alike. Burka shops peek out between the chic boutiques, tourist souvenirs lie alongside the paraphernalia of the Muslim devout and everywhere bright fabrics on offer are a seamstress's dream.
All this wafted by the breath of exotic perfumes and oils intermingled with the scents of a stew of cuisines, a sensory testament to a cultural vibrancy.
Dimensions: 140 x 140 mm